According to the audit report by Mr. Sercer, most individuals on the payment plan overpaid their interest by $800. Now that the County is aware of this error, it would seem that they would be required to send refund checks to the individuals who paid too much in interest.
It doesn’t appear that this has happened. The information about who overpaid is not in the report. It would be part of the details of the audit. These details have not been made available because they have not be requested from Mr. Sercer. The Commissioners, who ordered the audit, are hesitant to request the audit details because they feel that the Attorney General’s office may conduct an investigation and the release of the audit details would compromise the investigation.
On the other hand, the county has something of an obligation to quickly give people their money back if they were charged interest they did not owe. Even if this isn’t a legal statute it is surely an ethical requirement. In some situations, it might just be a matter of taking the overpaid interest and applying it to any outstanding tax bill for current years, but in others it may be a matter of issuing someone an $800 check.
Without the audit details, it is impossible to know who needs a refund, but there are some complicated scenarios that may to arise.
First, if someone has overpaid in the past, how is that money applied to other delinquent taxes? It would seem that their interest would need to be recalculated to keep from penalizing them for money they had been incorrectly charged.
Second, if someone is owed money due to an incorrect calculation by the county, they may be entitled to receive interest on that money. Federal taxes have a provision where the IRS can owe tax payers interest in certain situations and their may be a similar state laws.
The third scenario that may complicate things for the county involves a tax payer who has overpaid on the payment plan, but currently has property in the process of being prepared for sale for other unpaid taxes. If they have money owed them by the county and the property is sold, what happens to the extra money? If the amount was more than what they owed (unlikely), then the county would be in the position of foreclosing on someone who had paid all their taxes. If it is for less, then the county would be in the postion of foreclosing on someone without telling them how much they actually owed.
Now it is impossible to say if anyone is in any of these situations or not. At this point, Mr. Sercer and his firm are the only ones who have the information, but it seems like it would be in the best interest of the county to make the details public before that tax sale. Otherwise there is a chance that it will put the county into a very tricky position.